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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Bishop 'upset' gay lay applicant
John Reaney
Mr Reaney said he felt "upset" after meeting with the bishop
A gay man who claims he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop has told a tribunal he was "extremely upset" at the rejection.

John Reaney, 41, said he still feels a "a total waste of space" following the refusal by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis to appoint him.

Mr Reaney, from Llandudno, is claiming unlawful discrimination against the Hereford diocesan board of finance.

The diocese denies discrimination and said he had not been offered a job.

During the tribunal in Cardiff, Mr Reaney described his feelings about being questioned over his sexual history by the bishop.

He applied for the vacant post of youth officer within the Hereford diocese in May last year and clearly stated his sexual orientation within the form.

I explicitly told him that I was certainly happy to remain celibate for the duration of the post
John Reaney

Mr Reaney claimed he was told the members of the eight-strong interview panel had recommended him for the job and that the appointment just needed the approval of the Bishop.

During a two-hour meeting in July, Mr Reaney claims the bishop, 59, first asked him about his relationship history.

"I said I was not in a sexual relationship and was not looking for one and that I was able to exercise self control," said Mr Reaney.

"The bishop put it to me that this situation could change. I made it very clear to the bishop that I was not seeking a relationship and would adhere to his wishes if I were under his authority.

"I would communicate with him if I was struggling. He asked me 'what would you do if you met someone?" he said at the tribunal.

"I told that if I felt a relationship might develop in the future, I would discuss it with him.

"However, I reiterated to him that I was not in a sexual relationship and I did intend to remain that way and I explicitly told him that I was certainly happy to remain celibate for the duration of the post."

Mr Reaney currently works for the Weston Spirit charity and said he left his youth worker post in the diocese of Chester in 2002 after 16 months.

He resigned after being asked to choose between his partner and his job.

Bishop Anthony Priddis
Bishop Priddis denies any discrimination against Mr Reaney

Mr Reaney added: "When the bishop asked me if I thought it was appropriate for a youth officer to have such a homosexual relationship, I turned to the bishop and said 'before we go any further what is your stance?'

"His words to me were 'whilst many of our colleagues are becoming more liberal on the issue, I find myself becoming more conservative.'

"At this point my heart sank. That was the turning point in the conversation for me."

Mr Reaney said he was left "very embarrassed and extremely upset" following the meeting.

He told the tribunal he had to pull up at the side of the road in his car to cry and took days off work because of his "distress".

He added: "I felt entirely alone and ashamed."

He told the tribunal a heterosexual lay employee of the diocese would not have been subjected to the "deep and probing" questioning from the bishop.

At the end of his evidence, Mr Reaney said: "Basically I feel a total waste of space - and struggle to remind myself of the fantastic things I have done, and the numerous young people who have become Christians due to my work and ministry among them."

On Wednesday the tribunal heard the job was not offered to anyone else after Bishop Priddis vetoed the appointment because of financial constraints within the diocese.

Under new employment laws passed in 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation.

But the law contains an exemption for organised religion and the tribunal is the first test case of how it applies to the Church of England.

Mr Reaney is being backed by gay rights organisation Stonewall, which is funding his case at the tribunal.




SEE ALSO
Gay man takes bishop to tribunal
01 Apr 07 |  Hereford/Worcs

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